House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was allegations.

Topics

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague, with whom I sit on the environment committee, if she has heard the fantastic news that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, for the first time in a number of years, have actually been decreased to the tune of 2.1%.

That report was file today. It is good news for Canadians. It is clearly a signal that the government understands, after a previous Liberal government failed and signed on to these glorified numbers, much like what we saw in Bill C-311, which passed yesterday. The Liberals did not do anything about it, other than attempt to ruin Canada's economy and, in particular, Alberta's economy.

I wonder if the member can stand in her place and actually congratulate the government for getting greenhouse gas emissions down with all the investments that we put into the budgets previous to budget 2010, which her party voted against.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would have thought the member would have liked to have expressed similar concern to the fact that our committee is not proceeding with the CEAA review, rather than it being done through a budget with little discussion.

It is good news if the greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 2.1%, but I find that rather pathetic, given the fact that they have gone up 35%. I do not know if that is 2.1% of intensity or if it is absolute. What was it?

The thing that I found most noteworthy was that yesterday in the House the parliamentary secretary informed the House that it was no doubt due to the fact that we are reducing coal-fired power. I would like the member to be aware, as he is from the same province as I am, that as we sit here, coal-fired power is expanding in Alberta and various companies are asking to ratchet back their requirements to reduce the greenhouse gases. I do not see the jolly forecast that the member sees.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I was not expecting it to be my turn to take the floor, but I am happy to speak to Bill C-9. This is not a very attractive bill because it relates to implementation of the budget, a budget which the Bloc Québécois finds very disappointing.

While I find this bill to be disappointing, I would like to say that the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona has indeed given a very good statement on part 20. That was the subject I wanted to address today, but I will not do so since she has handled it very well.

All the same, I shall speak on the environment, because I find that this budget implementation is truly contemptuous, particularly of the forestry sector. In Canada and Quebec, the forest is truly a key component in the reduction of greenhouse gases. The members opposite say that greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced. It is bizarre for the Conservatives to say this, given that they won the third fossil award in Bonn last week. They won this award because greenhouse gases in Canada have risen 3% over 1990 levels. I do not see how they can claim to be happy with an alleged reduction.

All that was only an aside, and I shall continue now to speak of the lumber industry. Many people speak of this industry as if it simply involved paper mills and mills that cut softwood into two by fours, but it is much more than that.

There is one thing I want to say. The money that should have been invested in the forestry sector would have been used for much more than just cutting down trees and shipping them to the United States. It would have been used to develop engineered wood, something that is now being done, in fact.

Engineered wood is bonded with glue and assembled to make immense spans or big fire-resistant pieces. It is interesting to note that one sawmill employee creates five jobs. One mill employee who cuts two by fours or two by sixes creates five jobs in the lumber industry. It is my impression that the members opposite think that only wood cutting is involved, but it is far more than just that. We have to invest in the forest. Proper forest management is important. This is called stewardship. It means increasing the potential of our forests by managing them so that trees grow larger, there are more of them, and they are in better condition.

It is important to invest in private forests and not just in public forests. It was the government’s responsibility to do so, but it did not. In addition to better quality lumber, more forests are created and greenhouse gases are reduced. It is self-evident.

The more trees we have and the bigger they are, the more greenhouse gases are reduced in the atmosphere. That goes without saying. It is also essential to increase incomes in the regions in the short and long run. Our forests are managed very well and are of major importance.

So what do we find in the budget in this regard? Nothing. There is nothing about the management of private forests and the forests that are the future of our regions. There is absolutely nothing about this in the budget. It is not just the future of our remote regions that is at stake but of our less distant regions as well. As I mentioned, a job in a sawmill creates five others in related factories.

The budget dwells on the automobile sector, as if we were going to live or die by it alone. We are going to die with our trees, and they are what is important. If we take that approach, it is possible that one day we could be autonomous in our construction industry and in our biomass from one end of the country to the other.

That is vital. They always take the short-term view, and that shows real contempt.

They treated the automobile industry like a god of some kind and gave it 57 times as much as the forest industry. For every employee who works in a sawmill, five others work in related plants or have a job maintaining our forests.

Trees grow. They are like money in the bank that earns interest. They are something we can give future generations. Unfortunately, we have a government that looks at the future in the rear-view mirror and sets nothing aside for our children.

We will all pay for the numerous tax breaks the government is giving the oil companies. They cost money and are a way of taxing people. These tax breaks amount to $2.7 billion, and every province and city will have to pay its share.

If green industries had been given the billions of dollars in tax breaks handed out to the oil companies, jobs could have been created. Instead of giving this money exclusively to shareholders, we could have created jobs in healthy work environments, for the future of our country and the future of our young people. The government thinks that oil companies are the future because there will be a shortage of oil. But there is enough in Alberta for a very long time.

There is no overarching vision of our strengths and no strategy for helping the younger generation. Creating green energy means creating an economy that could be exported and could replace fossil fuels. Unfortunately, that is not what they did. They always favour fossil fuels.

The budget increases funding for nuclear energy. Some governments think that nuclear energy is clean, but that is a farce. We have not even found places yet to store the waste. So long as these places have not been found, nuclear energy will remain dirty. In addition, it produces plutonium.

Recently, an agency of the Canadian government produced a report stating that the CANDU reactor might overheat and explode. This is a real sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, but we still keep promoting the reactor, because we know we will make a profit from it. They tried to build a reactor in Ontario. At the end of the day, a kilowatt hour generated by nuclear energy was so expensive that they abandoned the plan. Nuclear energy is starting to be compared to green energy. We are realizing that green energy creates a lot more jobs and is much safer. A windmill will never explode, and the same is true for solar and hydraulic energy.

Getting electricity from deep geothermal energy is also something that will not explode and that will last for years. We might say forever. So why not invest in green energy instead of investing in polluting energy? I know there is a very strong lobby. Nuclear energy has a huge organization lobbying the Canadian government.

We know that our government is very sensitive to lobbying. In fact, that is why there was not much money for forestry. The steel lobby is very strong, as is the cement lobby. So they want to keep wood for small houses only and build them out of two by fours, when we know that engineered lumber could be used to build rooms much bigger than here. So the environment and climate change have been completely ignored in the budget.

We could have changed tack and said now is the time to put money into the green economy. They did not do it and I am very disappointed. The Bloc considers this to be a major reason not to vote for the budget or for this Bill C-9, precisely because it is not looking to our children’s future. In this kind of bill we are looking to the past.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member. I have two questions for him.

First, does the member think the budget provides any uncertainty, as opposed to certainty, for people? While he is thinking of that, I will give two examples, the food mail program and aboriginal post-secondary education.

The government announced it would make changes, but it has not said what they would be. It will be at some time in the future. If the food people get is in jeopardy, I think they would be pretty worried and would want to know what the changes are.

Second, the member talked about the environment and the cancellation of a number of environment programs, like the eco-energy program, the adaptation programs for climate change and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, where many major scientists are involved in climate change and temperature studies, on droughts, on environment sciences, et cetera and keeping data on that, which is irreplaceable.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his two questions.

I do think the government is currently engaging in a diversion. First, it mentioned a certain number for education. We did not pay too much attention to it because that is under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec, of our province and eventually our country.

However, if we look at the environment and the way the bill has been worded, in Part 20, the decision will now come from the minister. What does that mean? If we look at it, the minister will always be deciding everything. It will no longer be groups saying it needs to be done. It will no longer be Parliament, but the minister.

That means that the minister can very well follow the policy issued by cabinets: to promote the development of the oil sands to the exclusion of other things. Whenever an environmental impact study might block a project, it will not be taken into account. We saw the situation two weeks ago with the big Keystone pipeline. Now, we have a Baker train going by. Will an environmental impact study be done? We think not, because that might block the development.

So I agree entirely with my colleague when he says that a lot of things are being concealed. They chose their words carefully to make people happy. People are going to think this is wonderful, but in reality it is so the government will be able to decide as it likes.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, earlier, the hon. member wanted to talk about the environment, but since the member from Alberta had already done so, he chose to deal with another issue. A question had been asked by a government member. We were discussing the Conservatives' record and the announcement made yesterday. The member for Wetaskiwin had put the question. He said that greenhouse gases had been reduced and that we did not recognize that.

Perhaps the Bloc member could tell me something. If there has been a greenhouse gas reduction, is it not once again because since 2006, when the Conservatives took office, the mills in Miramichi, Bathurst, Dalhousie and New Richmond have all shut down? Paper mills across the country have closed. All sorts of plants and mills have stopped operating. Perhaps the Conservatives registered the greenhouse gas emissions that came out of these chimneys.

Greenhouse gases may have been reduced, but the Conservatives cannot claim that economic development is responsible for a less polluted environment. It is because plants have shut down. We do not expect the government to protect the environment through regulations.

Does the member agree that this is a more accurate picture of the environmental situation in Canada?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi has about one minute to respond.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I fully agree with the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Of course, the Conservatives will say that it is thanks to them, but what did they do to achieve that result? Nothing, zero, niet. Therefore, they should not take credit and pat themselves on the back. The economy has weakened. As the hon. member pointed out, mills were closed, including some that produced electricity from coal. My colleague is right: in Bonn, last week, Canada received a third fossil award because greenhouse gases have increased in Canada. This was demonstrated by international groups. There has been no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 but, rather, a 3% increase.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. The NDP is opposed to this bill for a number of reasons. My colleagues have addressed a number of topics, but since I am the employment insurance critic, I will focus on that part. For the record, that is not the only thing I am opposed to in Bill C-9. I could go on about many other points.

Bill C-9 includes certain amendments to legislation. The Canada Employment Insurance Commission is continued. It consists of four commissioners. A new employment insurance operating account has been created in the accounts of Canada. This new account was created because the old account in the consolidated revenue fund has been closed.

The Conservatives boast about creating a new employment insurance operating account that will open with $2 billion. They also boast about not being like the Liberals and not dipping into the employment insurance fund.

This is 2010 and the Conservatives have been in power since 2006. Between 2006 and 2010, who are the mysterious people who stole from the EI fund? It had to be someone. Who stole from the fund between 2006 and 2010? We cannot blame the Liberals for everything. Not everything is their doing. They stole from the EI fund between 1993 and 2006. It cannot be denied; it has been said often enough.

Ironically, during a question period, the Minister of Finance said:

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the plain fact is that the previous Liberal government, in the middle of the 1990s, siphoned off the $58 billion to $60 billion from the EI fund and put it into the consolidated revenue fund. People do not have to take my word for it. Read what professors—

I remember the words he used, but they were changed in Hansard. He said the Liberals stole between $58 billion and $60 billion. “To steal” and “to siphon off” mean the same thing.

Normally when a thief is caught, he has to return the stolen money to its rightful owner. There is more than $57 billion in surplus in the EI fund. I did not make this up. The Minister of Finance said so in the House of Commons on March 29 .

The blues show that that same day, the Prime Minister rose and acknowledged that the Liberals had stolen money from the EI fund. If money is stolen and then recovered, it must be returned to the people it was stolen from. Who are those people? They are the same people to whom the government is bragging about cutting taxes to major corporations. The government is cutting taxes for the corporations and at the same time wants to increase EI premiums by 15¢ per $100 of insurable earnings. So it is a tax for workers. But they claim to want to lower taxes.

The government does not believe in taxing people, and the previous government pillaged the employment insurance fund. The Conservatives continued this from 2006 to 2010. Now, with a bill, they are legitimizing this pillaging and are wiping out the government's debt, the surplus belonging to the workers. Now, workers will pay an additional $223 per year for employment insurance contributions and employers will pay an additional $312.

The government lowered taxes for workers by $100 and patted itself on the back, but it will tax them $212. That is what the government did. It is a tax on workers because workers and employers already paid into the employment insurance fund. They already put money into the employment insurance fund.

The member for Acadie—Bathurst is not the only one saying it. In the question I asked, and I think it is worth repeating, I mentioned that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently conducted a survey that showed that 82% of Canadian business owners wanted to see the federal government freeze future increases to EI premiums until the $57 billion surplus has been fully paid back.

Workers are not the only ones saying that they want the money that was taken from them. Business owners are saying it too: 82% of business owners say that they want the money that was taken from them. They are not asking for a cheque for $57 billion. What they want is for their premiums not to increase. They are saying that if the government needs money, it should use some of the $57 billion that it took from them. The government borrowed that money. If it did not steal it, then it should return it to them. If the government stole the money, then we should call the RCMP to come pick up the ministers. That is what we should do.

There are only two things that can be done. On March 29 or 30, the government acknowledged that funds were stolen. But what happened between 2006 and 2010? This same government stole money from the employment insurance fund, too. They want to use Bill C-9 to legalize this theft. But I cannot vote for a bill that would legalize such theft, the biggest theft in Canadian history.

The sponsorship issues in the past were nothing compared to the scandal perpetrated on the backs of this country's workers. It is unparalleled. This is the biggest national scandal ever: taking employment insurance premiums from workers' pay, putting it towards the budget and paying down the debt with this money. The minister acknowledged that funds were stolen but he does not want to turn around and pay back the workers and entrepreneurs. I remind the members that 82% of independent entrepreneurs tell us that they want their money back. That is what has happened.

In addition, there have been changes to employment insurance in this budget. It is all very well for them to pat themselves on the back for new bills as though they can fix everything. I will support the government bill for our people in National Defence. However, there are bigger problems. How many people in this country have cancer, heart problems, and how many need employment insurance benefits for a year but are not entitled even though they paid into them? They are only entitled to 15 weeks. Something could have been done to help workers. Something could have been put in the next budget.

There are other areas where something could be done for the workers, such as lowering the EI eligibility criteria to 350 or 360 hours rather than maintaining the current requirement of 455, 700 or 900 hours. This would help people who are not eligible for employment insurance during an economic crisis. We must not give money only to major corporations through tax cuts. We cut taxes for big business and we put workers on social assistance. Instead, we should be providing assistance to the people who helped make these corporations profitable. These companies have turned a profit a number of times. There are corporate presidents who pay themselves salaries of millions of dollars, not just hundreds of thousands, every year.

The government has turned around, taken pity on big business and given them tax breaks. It is doing the same for banks. The government says that big business and the banks need tax breaks. However, workers who lose their jobs and go on employment insurance are accused of abusing the system. They do not want workers to abuse the system. How many times has the government said in this House that if the number of hours to qualify for benefits is changed to 350, people would work only 10 weeks and receive employment insurance the rest of the time?

I find that shameful. It is an insult to workers. For example, France pays workers 75% of their income when they apply for employment insurance. If asked the question, France would reply that it respects its workers.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the member waxed eloquently on EI. He covered that topic very well. He is an expert in that area and I appreciate that.

However, I want to ask a question on a topic in another area. I know he is well versed in all areas, being the whip for his party. My question is in regard to the government's suggestion of reducing the number of people on boards to save money.

Many people have brought forward the fact that it is not going to save much money because most of those are vacant positions and it is only about 18 part-time people, so that is a red herring.

When we eliminate people from boards, usually they represent someone like the unemployed, or the province of New Brunswick, the federal government or NGOs. If we are eliminating positions, who is going to eliminate them?

Does the member have any concerns on this particular part of the budget implementation bill about eliminating positions on boards and if it will really make a difference?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, if we eliminate the people who represent the people, there is a problem. I do not think we have ever heard any workers in our country who said that boards are too big. I have heard workers say that there are $57 billion that belongs to them. If they cannot be represented, it encourages the government to hide what it is doing instead.

I think this is wrong. The labour movement and employers should be able to have a say because they are the payers. The government does not pay 1¢ to employment insurance. All the money comes from employees and employers. They should have a say about who will be on boards to represent people across the country.

It takes longer to travel from Newfoundland to Vancouver than from Montreal to Paris. Just imagine that. It is a big thing to go to France, but that is how big our country is.

I think we have to have a fair representation across the country and it is wrong to eliminate people and put them out of work the way the government is doing, but we understand that.

The Conservative government is a government that is not very transparent. We have seen that in the last couple of weeks. It wants to be transparent by eliminating people as representatives of the people.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague from the NDP, who said that, sadly, the Conservative government had ignored the unemployed in its budget and had once again failed to improve the employment insurance system.

I would like to hear him on the misappropriation of $57 billion initiated by the previous Liberal government and continued by this Conservative government at the expense of the unemployed and businesses.

I find it appalling. They do not even have the decency now to give the money back to the people who have worked. Not even a portion of the money is given back to these people at a time when they need help. They are facing financial difficulties, and workers are losing their jobs left and right. Now is the time to give back the $57 billion, but the money has been squandered.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I do not know if my Bloc Québécois colleague heard me, but I spoke about that. I can speak about it again. It gives me the opportunity to say that the problem exists everywhere, not just in the Maritimes and the Atlantic provinces, as they would have us believe.

I did a national tour myself. I went all over the country, to every province. I went to Timmins, to Sudbury, Ontario, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Edmonton, Alberta. I went to Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Vancouver, Prince George and even to the Yukon. The problem was the same everywhere. All of the workers said that it was their money and that they should be entitled to it when they lose their jobs.

It all comes back to what was said in France. This is the workers' money. I am happy that they are able to get insurance and participate in the economy instead of having to receive social assistance. I tip my hat to France on this one. We need to stop insulting our workers as the previous government and today's government have done by saying that they abuse the system. These are families who are losing their pay, their income. These are children who are living in poverty. There is a good reason why 1.4 million children in this country are hungry. It is because of the previous governments and today's government, the Liberals and the Conservatives. The money should go to the workers immediately.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas on a point of order.

Allegations regarding the former Minister of State for the Status of Women
Points of Order
Government Orders

April 15th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order in an attempt to allow two ministers to correct the public record concerning their recent assertions that the government had referred recent allegations concerning the former minister of state for the status of women to the Ethics Commissioner.

I will start by referring to a Library of Parliament transcript from this morning's CBC radio program, The Current, in which the following exchange between the Ethics Commissioner and host Anna Maria Tremonti took place:

MARY DAWSON: Yes, and I should just clarify that a little bit. I have not had an official request from the Prime Minister to investigate anything relating to [the member for Simcoe--Grey].

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Who has requested, then, if he hasn't?

MARY DAWSON: I haven't had any request.

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: From anyone?

MARY DAWSON: No.

I will send you a copy of this transcript, Madam Speaker, and would happily table it in the House if I received consent. Is there consent to table the document, Madam Speaker?